More Outages as Charter, Union Continue Stalemate

Strike enters sixth month; service disruptions abound

As the strike involving nearly 2,000 Charter Communications workers in New York and New Jersey enters its sixth month, outages due to cut cables and vandalism continue to mount, with the latest occurring late on Sept. 7 and causing tens of thousands of customers in Queens and Brooklyn to lose service.

The strike, which began on March 28 and involves about 1,800 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, has been marred by dozens of acts of vandalism. Charter said it is hard at work to bring back service after the latest incident.

“Our repair crews have been working tirelessly throughout the night to restore service as quickly as possible, and we expect gradual restoration during the day,” Charter said in a statement. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we do. We are also working with the NYPD on an investigation of this latest round of criminal destruction of our network.”

New York customers took to Twitter to colmplain about the outage, as Charter continued to release boilerplate statements from its @Ask_Spectrum account.

I'm used to @GetSpectrum service crashing and burning once a month, but usually it's only for an hour or two... not 11 and counting.

— Nick Kolakowski (@nkolakowski) September 8, 2017

Queens, NY customers, techs continue to work in your area to repair fiber damage affecting all services. Thank you for your patience.

— Ask Spectrum (@Ask_Spectrum) September 8, 2017

Charter sees the latest incident as an act of vandalism, not an accident. The company is not formally connecting the outages with the strike, but noted that it has identified more than 110 incidents of network vandalism since the walkout began, compared to just four in the three years prior to March 28.

Representatives for IBEW Local 3 were not immediately available for comment.

For its part, the union has denied any involvement by its membership in the alleged vandalism and has condemned such actions.

According to reports, the union and its members are frustrated with years of working without a contract and are demanding better working conditions and benefits. Charter, which inherited those workers after it purchased Time Warner Cable last year, has repeatedly said it has offered “competitive and robust” health and retirement benefits but has been rebuffed by the union.

IBEW Local 3 has been without a contract since 2013. According to reports the union has said since Charter took over Time Warner Cable, the company has tried to stop contributing to member pension and health plans. Charter has denied the pension claims but said it has offered workers an average pay increase of 22%, greater than what the union requested, and comprehensive retirement and health benefits, including a 401(k) that provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to 6% of eligible pay.

The union also claims that Charter wants to eliminate overtime pay on Saturday and Sunday and reduce the number of paid holidays, and give it greater flexibility to subcontract work normally done by bargaining unit employees.

According to an employee website the union had proposed several cost-cutting measures that would allow the pension and healthcare contributions to remain intact at an Aug. 7 meeting with Charter representatives. The union had expected a counterproposal from Charter at a scheduled meeting on Aug. 29, but said it had not received one and that the company refused to discuss medical and pension issues. The union was slated to hold a meeting with members on Sept. 7 to discuss its next steps.